We left off where Jesus had let loose the seventh and final seal of the scroll that describes God’s final redemptive plan for man. The ‘seals’ were an overview of the wrath of God, coming for those that rebel against Him. The seventh seal was an introductory vision about the coming ‘judgments of the trumpets,’ which describe that actual advent of partial disasters that are coming (‘partial,’ because God is still trying to get as many people to come to repentance and salvation as possible.
The first trumpet tells of a disaster whereupon one third of the earth is burned because of heavenly-induced hail, fire and blood. The second depicts a burning mountain cast into the sea – killing one third of all marine life and ocean-going vessels and defiling the sea with blood. (Some have interpreted the first and the second trumpets as extreme volcanic destruction.)
The third suggests a meteor strike which pollutes one third of the world’s fresh water supply. (Some have interpreted this to be collateral damage from warfare.) The fourth calls for the loss of light from a third of the sun, moon and stars – resulting in utter darkness for a third of a day and a night. (Foretold by the prophet Amos – 8:9.)
After the fifth trumpet blows, John says:
…I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. Rv. 9:1 ESV
Some interpret this to represent a ‘good angel,’ others say it corroborates with Jesus, when He described the star as Satan being can out of heaven. (Lk. 10:18)
When the pit is opened, locusts resembling horses dressed for battle, having faces like men, long hair, teeth like lions, breastplates of iron, tails like scorpions and wings that roar, are released. Some have interpreted the locusts to being demons, others see them as rebel angels that sided with Satan, and finally there are those who understand them to be one and the same.
However, demonic activity has been going on ever since Satan was cast from heaven; but the Bible tells us that the rebel angels have been imprisoned since that time. (Jude 6)
Nevertheless, these rebel angels / demons / locusts are allowed to torment the unbelievers (not possessing the seal of God on them) with a vicious sting for 5 months. As a side note, these demons are commanded to refrain from harming any plant life; thus, these judgments are not sequential but are somewhat simultaneous in their occurrence.
When the sixth trumpet sounds, four ‘bound’ angels (we are not told why they are shackled, but it suggests that they are malevolent) are unbound, so they may lead a demonic army of two hundred million to kill a third of mankind. This represents an army ‘from the east,’ separate from the one from the north that attempted to defeat Israel but was decimated by God. Some interpreters deduce that this eastern army comes from Asia, as it is the only region that could muster one of this size.
They too are on the march to Israel, but their intent is to fight the final battle of Armageddon. It is believed that this army kills a third of mankind while on that march.
The sixth trumpet is mankind’s last warning! There will be no salvation made available to anyone once the seventh trumpet sounds. Still, there will be hard-hearted hold-outs:
The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent even then of the works of their hands, so as to cease worshiping and paying homage to the demons and idols…and they did not repent of their murders nor their sorceries (drugs, intoxications) nor of their sexual immorality or of their thefts. Rv. 9:20, 21. AMP
Just as there was a ‘heavenly interlude’ just prior to the unveiling of the seventh seal, there is a second interlude that precedes the sounding of the seventh trumpet. John’s vision shifts earthward, whereupon he sees a great angel (who some interpret to be Christ), holding a scroll and calls out heavenward, declaring an oath to God:
…there would be delay no longer, but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets. Rv. 10:6, 7. NASB
Thus, the culmination of everything that God has been revealing throughout history, will begin to manifest at that sounding of the seventh trumpet.
The angel tells John that he must continue to preach the gospel; and then it assigns him a new task:
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God, and the alter and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.” Rv. 11:1, 2. ESV
Forty-two months (3 1/2 years – according to the Jewish calendar of 30-day months) represents the second half of the tribulation period. The measuring rod is generally interpreted to symbolize God’s protection. The temple is seen by some to represent the body of Christ, and the ’trampling of the holy city’ being the persecutions set against that body during the tribulations.
Others interpret this scripture to refer to a literal ‘new temple’ that will be built in Jerusalem during the first half of the tribulations – after God delivers Israel from the ‘army of the north,’ which leads to Israel accepting Christ as their Messiah. These interpreters look to Ezek. 4:11 as the foundation of this interpretation.
Continuing on in this second interlude, Jesus brings additional revelation:
“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophecy for 1260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouths and consumes their foes…They have the power…to strike the earth with every kind of plague… Rv. 11:3 – 6. ESV
The wearing of sackcloth by the witnesses, signify a last call to the unbelievers to repent. Some interpret the witnesses as symbolic of the ‘witnessing church,’ either during the present age or in the last half of the tribulations; and others see them as literal prophets of great power, but their identities cannot be resolved with certainty.
“And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt where there Lord was crucified.” Rv. 11:7, 8. ESV
Thus, we see that the two witnesses have been preaching in Jerusalem; but in the time of the second half of the tribulations, the conditions have degenerated so badly that it is now compared with an ancient city renowned for moral degradation and with a country infamous for its idolatry. We are also told that when the witnesses’ call for repentance is at an end, they are attacked by Satan’s ‘beast.’
For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. Rv. 11:9, 10. ESV
So, the world throws a party because these meddlesome prophets had been putting a damper on their immoral and pagan frenzy. Yet, there is a big surprise coming:
But after three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear and panic fell on those who were watching them. And the two witnesses heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” Then they ascended into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them. Rv. 11:11, 12. AMP
In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. in the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven. Rv. 11:13 NKJV
The resurrection of the two witnesses makes the end of the tribulations. All chances for repentance and salvation are no longer available for the unbelievers.
Those who interpret the two witnesses as symbolic for the witnessing church, see their resurrection as symbolism for a ‘post-tribulation’ rapture of the martyred church – those who converted during the tribulations.
The interlude concludes, and the seventh trumpet is about to sound…
Goodnight and God bless.